Ryan Silva started Epic Transportation LLC as the party bus market boomed in San Diego. Now, he’s upgrading his fleet and operation to attract a more mature and corporate set of customers.
WHAT DID YOU DO BEFORE: I had been working as an Internet marketing specialist for two years and was doing a little freelance while also working a job with an Internet company. I knew somebody who happened to be my neighbor who had a limo bus. This was in 2002. I introduced myself and wanted to see what it was all about. The business looked fun. We became friends and I redid his website and got him number one on Google, and he tripled the size of his fleet shortly after that. This was around the same time the Internet bubble popped, and soon I needed a job. I started driving for him and doing different things in the business and fell in love with the industry.
START-UP COSTS AND METHODS: I bought my first limo bus in 2004, a used bus that I had gutted. After the refurbishing and painting, it cost about $45,000. I built a website for wine tasting in the local winery region of Temecula to get the daytime business. I knew the nighttime business would come on its own.
TYPES OF CLIENTS: In San Diego, the market has completely changed. Limo buses became really popular here with the local wine tours, bar scene and colleges, and there was a time when I was even hearing about a new company opening up about once a week. People saw the easy money and now it’s running rampant. You used to be able to charge $1,000 for a run to downtown and now it’s $400 — it’s not my market anymore. Our clients are mid- to late 30s and up. Weddings are fine, wine tours are great; it’s just that Saturday night bar crowd we’re trying to avoid.
CLIENT REFERRALS: We get a lot from word of mouth. I probably book three or four reservations a week on my cellphone from friends of friends who just know what I do. I get a lot of referrals from clientele who become friends and they become our advocates and that’s what we want. A lot of limo bus companies have come and gone, and I think what’s kept us here is that my price points are consistent. We don’t chase the crowds; we do what we do best. If we keep doing that, wedding planners find out about us, and meeting planners. Once you get that reputation, which is difficult to achieve, people will look for that caliber of company.
SUCCESS STRATEGIES: When I drove myself I tried to think of everything the client would need and anticipate what I could do to make their experiences better. We make sure all our equipment here is working in top shape. We have a full-time mechanic who fixes everything. We get tons of letters from clients saying thank you. It’s like they say, to get a client is so difficult but to lose one is so easy.
FLEET GROWTH: We actually just purchased a company that had more corporate-type vehicles. They had the Krystal limo buses, two Cadillac Escalades, and a few other vehicles. They were twice our size and it was also our first major step in going corporate and moving away from the pure party crowd.
WHAT’S BEST ABOUT LIMO BUSINESS: The thank you letters and knowing our clients are satisfied with our job means a lot. We also donate services to kid and homeless shelters for a couple different events throughout the year. It’s really nice to make an impact on people who may not necessarily ever get a chance to ride in limos — it lights up there day and that’s really big payback for me.
OPERATOR ADVICE: Remember the market is always up and down, and the pressure to cut your rates to compete is tremendous, but do not do that. Instead, add value to your service. That is how you become a sustainable limousine company. If you’re cutting prices, you’re only going to be there as long as it takes for the next guy to cut and you’re pretty much done.
Epic Transportation LLC
Location: San Diego, Calif.
Owner: Ryan Silva
Main service region: San Diego area
Vehicle types: Sedans, SUV’s, limo buses, stretches, SUV stretches
Fleet size: 10 vehicles
Annual revenues: $840,000
Information: (877) 531-0644